Health & Well-being

Substance Abuse Support Program (project step)

The counselling, treatment and information youth need today, to prevent life-long addiction and support student success.

Ottawa Network for Education collaborates with 22 community partners to address the support, treatment, education, and prevention education (step) needs of youth in grades 7 to 12. Collectively, with funding from the Province of Ontario, the City of Ottawa, the four local school boards, and United Way/Centraide Ottawa, we are improving access to substance abuse education, and providing critical school-based counselling to students and parents affected by drug and/or alcohol addiction. United Way plays a pivotal role in raising awareness and community funds for project step, and ONFE oversees the coordination and delivery of in-school programming in Ottawa’s publicly funded high schools.

In 2011-12, this substance abuse prevention program expanded to support youth in three community-based schools: Operation Come Home, Youville Centre, and the Wabano Aboriginal Health Centre as well as residential treatment at two centres - one in each official language.

For more information, visit project step.

About the Program


Recent research revealed that 85% of adults with addiction started abusing drugs or alcohol before the age of 18. In Ontario, 1 in 7 students in grades 9-12 report symptoms of a drug use problem.

According to the 2017 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, 1 in 10 students in grades 7-12 used prescription opioid pain relievers (e.g., Percocet, Percodan, Tylenol #3, Demerol, Dilaudid, OxyNEO, codeine) recreationally in the past year. The majority (55%) of these students obtained their drugs from a parent or sibling.


As a result of project step, every high school in Ottawa has access to a youth addictions counselor on site. Last year, over 1,400 local students and more than 200 parents across all 4 publicly funded school boards accessed counselling services. In addition, 15,000 middle and high school students, and over 3000 parents, participated in substance abuse education and prevention sessions.


Since school-based counseling was introduced in 2007, more than 7,500 local youth have accessed this service, and the results are impressive. Of the students tracked in a program evaluation group, over 70% had reduced or stopped “using,” while 97% of students in counseling completed their school year.

four smiling high schools students posing closely

“The recommendations from the counselor certainly helped me realize that I should change my current habits and do what’s best for me, rather than act on what I’m tempted to do.”

— Ottawa High School Student

You Can Help Students Succeed

Help to provide Ottawa youth and their families with access to support, treatment, education and prevention programming. You can help kids struggling with substance abuse – before it’s too late.